The new semester is an exciting time. As construction crews renovate campus around us, teachers are busy inside with preparations: Updating the syllabus, planning out class sessions, tweaking what did not work so well last time and imagining how well students will do this time.

But, as Jim Lang points out in his article on the dangers of overpreparing, the most challenging moments in the classroom will be those you cannot anticipate: The concepts you mistakenly thought students would easily grasp, the discussion that veers off topic, the students who seemed on track who fail a big test, the moment of crisis in national politics or world events that you have to take time to address.

While you cannot foresee every difficulty that may arise, you can prepare. You can take stock of your teaching toolkit. Your toolkit is a handful of flexible strategies that you can call into action as the need arises in class. A good tool is simple, versatile, and handy in many situations. Here are a few of our favorite tools we will be oiling up for use this semester:
Engagement: Just as the first moments of the class session set the tone for that day, the first day of class sets the tone for the entire semester. Consider how you will sustain engagement throughout the semester. Lawrence Lesser sets opening intentions in a poem he shares with the class. Zoë Cohen uses email and texting to reach out and "nudge" struggling students after a difficult test. 

Feedback: You won’t know if students are struggling or bored if you don’t get continual feedback from them. How will you assess their relevant background knowledge? How will you know if they are following along during a lecture? One easy method is polling. A show of hands or a question posed to the entire class for discussion is a low-tech way. Simple tech-tools such as poll everywhere can be used and adjusted on the fly to add more nuance.

Retrieval: Start class with a short writing prompt or small group discussion that forces retrieval of relevant information. The science of learning shows the more learners retrieve and apply information, the more it sticks.

What else is in your teaching toolkit? Let us know !
Upcoming Events at the CTE:

TED Talk Lunch and Learn
Last Friday of Every Month at Noon: August 31, September 28, October 26, November 30